Dean woke up. He felt disorientated. He didn't know where he was. For a split second he forgot what had happened. He thought everything was ok. Then he remembered. Then it crashed in on him. Sam. He was at Lisa's. He was in her spare room. Sam was in Hell. Sam was gone. He closed his eyes and felt a rush of emotion well up inside him. Running a hand down his face he rolled out of bed. He dressed without thinking and wandered down the hall to the kitchen. There was a note on the bench. It was from Lisa. She'd left for work, she'd be home after 4 with Ben, he could help himself to anything and please call her if he needed to, she'd left her cell phone number. Dean put the note back on the kitchen counter and wandered over to the fridge, opened the door and looked inside. Sighing he closed it again. He couldn't eat. He wasn't hungry. There was an emptiness inside him but food wasn't going to fill it. He opened cupboard after cupboard looking for something that would. He finally found a bottle of scotch and put it on the counter. He looked at the clock. It was 11am. Man, he was tired, so tired, tired like he hadn't slept for a week tired. Everything ached, every bone, every muscle throbbed with pain. He grabbed the scotch and walked back to the bedroom.
2pm. Dean woke up. The bottle was still on the bedside table, unopened. He grabbed it and walked out to the lounge room. Sitting on the couch he cracked open the bottle of scotch and took a swig. Wiping his hand across his mouth, he lay back against the cushions and closed his eyes. Putting the bottle back to his lips he took another belt. He could feel it warming him from the inside out. He could feel it starting to numb the throbbing ache. He could feel it starting to numb his mind. He could feel it starting to numb everything….
Time unknown. Dean woke up with a gentle shaking of his shoulders.
"Dean, Dean wake up."
"Sam?" Dean sat up groggily.
Dean focused on the face in front of him. A sob escaped. "Sam."
Lisa took Dean's arm. "Dean, come on you need to go to bed."
Dean let her help him up. The empty scotch bottle rolled off the couch and onto the floor with a clatter. Dean looked up and saw Ben staring at him, mouth agape. Dean closed his eyes as he stumbled passed the boy. He'd apologise later, he thought, he'd apologise to Ben later…..later.
Lisa suggested they watch a movie. Dean said sure. He didn't care. Ben said he'd pick one. Lisa and Ben went to the store. Dean drank. They came back with the latest Indiana Jones movie.
At the dinner table, Ben asked brightly, "Have you seen it?" The kid obviously liked Dean.
"What is it?"
"The latest Indiana Jones movie, I never got to see it." Ben said. "Have you seen it? Because if you have we can watch something else."
Dean frowned. "Nah, I never saw it. I ahhh, I wasn't around when it came out." He picked up his glass and took a slug.
"Cool" said Ben, oblivious.
Lisa came over with the food. Looking at Dean as he stared into space she asked, "You ok?"
"Yeah I'm good," Dean lied.
Dean woke up screaming. "Sam no!" He was fighting an unseen force. "It's me, it's me, I'm here Sammy!"
Dean looked up shocked as a light came on. Lisa rushed towards him. "Dean, you're having a nightmare, it's just a nightmare, it's ok, it's ok."
Dean blinked. "What?" He looked around the room. Realising where he was he sank back into the pillow. Tears streamed down his face. "I'm sorry," he whispered, "I'm sorry." Lisa wasn't sure if he was talking to her or to someone who wasn't there.
"It's ok Dean," she whispered back as she crawled into the bed beside him. "Just go to sleep, I'll be here." She laid her arm across his chest. Her touch felt good. Dean allowed himself to relax into her body. He closed his eyes. He slept.
1 week. It'd been 1 week. 1 week since Sam had thrown himself into the pit. Dean had been drunk most days, or at least, for a good portion of most days. He'd started sleeping in Lisa's bed. The proximity of another human being seemed to calm his dreams, but not completely. Most nights he woke in a cold sweat, panic gripping his heart. He'd barely been out of the house, he hadn't shaved, he only ate when forced to. He shook his head. Enough. He took a shower and shaved off the stubble that was threatening to become a beard. He pulled on his boots and walked down the hall. Looking out the window at the garden he noticed the leaves had fallen. It was nearly winter. Going outback to the shed, he found a rake and a bag and started clearing up the dead leaves. It felt good to do something, to be useful, to focus on something other than….. He filled one bag and went and got another. As he started to work on the second bag he had the strangest sensation, like he was being watched. He looked up at the house. There was no-one home, no-one looking out the window, but still…. He glanced over his shoulder, his hunter instincts quickly kicking back in. Nothing. The yard was empty. Turning around he frowned and shook his head. At least he was still feeling that hunter paranoia, he thought. He grabbed the two bags of leaves and headed to the incinerator. Casting a keen eye around the empty garden one more time, he returned to the house.
Back inside, Dean went into the small office. He fired up Lisa's computer. He'd intended to look at the positions vacant. He didn't. Instead he found himself searching the net for spells, books, charms, anything that might give him a clue as to how to bring Sam back. He'd promised he wouldn't. He'd kept his promise for a whole week. Dean thought that was pretty good going. Doing the research made him feel alive, made him feel like himself again, made him feel like he was doing something. He hadn't realised what the time was until he heard Lisa and Ben come through the front door arguing. He looked up and quickly covered his notes.
"In here" he yelled back. "Hey. What's going on? You and Ben have a fight?"
"He was just giving me lip, he's been kind of weird lately." Lisa blanched, realising what she'd said.
Dean looked down. "Lisa, if I'm causing problems, I'm just gonna go."
"No Dean, you're not, you're not causing problems, if you were I'd be the first one to toss you out, it's just, well he's at that age or whatever they say."
Dean laughed, "Yeah. I remember when Sammy….." He stopped. "Never mind" he mumbled. He looked back at the computer screen trying to erase the thought.
Lisa broke the silence. "Ummm, what are you looking for?" she asked.
"Oh, want ads, thought it was time I started pulling my weight around here. You know I was thinking, what's that guy next door called, Sid? He's in construction right? I was thinking I'd see if he knew of any crews who might be looking for a spare hand." Dean looked up at Lisa and saw relief flood across her face.
"We could ask them over?"
"No it's cool. I'll go over myself a bit later, see what he says." Dean forced a smile.
"Ok, well I better go get started on dinner, you ok here?"
"Yeah I'm good." Dean lied.
Work. 2 days earlier Dean had gone out and bought himself a truck. Turns out they were short handed on the construction site and he could start straight away. He bought a truck and some tools. He bought them with a fake credit card. It'd be the last time he'd need to do that, he thought. He'd driven the truck home and pulled into the drive. He'd got out and gone into the garage. He'd run his hand over the Impala. He'd rested his forehead against her metal body. "Sam" he breathed. He stood up, grabbed a tarp from the shelf and covered her up, patting his baby one last time. Next he went into the house; got his leather jacket….dad's jacket, dad's journal, his fake credit cards, his fake ids and he locked them all in a safe box. He went to walk out, but stopped. Turning back he looked at his past life, all covered up and locked away and wondered, who the hell was he trying to fool.
Day 38, 45, 63, 78, 92, 104, 146…..
Dean functioned. He went to work. He did his job. He helped around the house. He went to Ben's baseball games. He bought groceries. He hosted barbeques. He had beers with his neighbour, Sid. He did all the right things. He said all the right things. He was a good friend. A good partner. A good father figure. A damn good liar. He got up in the middle of the night and searched the internet for answers. He drove out of his way to visit bookshops and libraries. He thought of little else but saving Sam. He drank from the minute he got home until the minute he could finally sleep. He faked his way through each and every second of each and every day. Day after day after day…..
Ben asked Dean to go to parent teacher night. What could he say? He really cared for the kid. A lot. It was the one part of his life that really felt right, felt like it could mean something again. Ben. If he could save Ben from the kind of life he and Sam had lived, maybe everything that happened before this could come to some good. Lisa was excited that he'd agreed to go. They sat in the classroom and listened to the teacher discuss Ben's grades and aptitude in class. Dean looked over at Ben and a memory flashed through his mind. A memory of sitting in for his dad when it was Sam who'd asked him. A memory of lying to the teachers and saying their dad got caught up at work, when really he was in another state hunting a Wendigo or something. A memory of Sam's sorrowful eyes, looking up at him from under his always too long fringe and smiling warmly at Dean. Dean's breath hitched. When was this gonna stop? When was this empty, aching, pain gonna stop? He had a great woman who loved him, a kid who adored him, a good job, friends for the first time in his life, a normal existence, no blood, no violence, no killing…..no brother. He closed his eyes and breathed in deep. He could do this, he had to do this. When he opened his eyes again Lisa was looking at him, her brows knitted.
"You ok?" she whispered.
"Yeah I'm good" Dean lied.
But he could tell she no longer believed him.
Dean rang Bobby. It'd been a few months since they'd spoken. He hadn't seen Bobby, but every so often one or the other would call and check in.
"Hey Bobby, how you doing?"
"I'm ok, you?"
"Yeah I'm good. How's things, you know, been keepin' busy?"
"Yup, had a bit on, how're Lisa and the kid doing?"
"Yeah they're doing good. Ben's little league team won."
"You ahh, you found out anything interesting Bobby?" Dean asked without asking.
"No…. ahh sorry Dean."
"Yeah, me neither…"
"Well Dean, I gotta go, you keep in touch, you look after that family of yours."
"Yeah, sure. Be careful out there ok Bobby?" Dean replied.
"You bet." Bobby said, a little too brightly.
They hung up. Neither one of them could ever bring themselves to say goodbye.
Barbeque. It wasn't the first barbeque Dean had thrown and this one was no different. His neighbours were all there, laughing, talking, comparing notes on their kids. Dean smiled, nodded, laughed at all the right times and in all the right places, but as he flipped the burgers he wondered, how much longer could he keep doing this? Every book, every lead, everything had been a dead end. Sam was rotting in Hell and Dean couldn't do a damn thing about it. As each day went by it got harder to fake it because as each day went by he felt more guilt. Guilt about Lisa. Guilt about Ben. But mostly guilt about Sam. Sam was suffering God knows what and here he was cooking barbeque and talking about the game over a couple of beers. His stomach churned. The whole thing made him feel sick. He glanced around at his new friends, if only they knew, he thought. He looked up and saw Lisa. She smiled. He smiled. He flipped another burger….
When everyone had gone home to their warm beds and normal lives Dean checked the house. The devils trap under the rug. The salt lines on the window. The holy water under the bed. The sawn-off in the hall closet. He poured himself a scotch; he put his head in his hands and sighed.
About a year
The alarm went off. Bob Seger's Beautiful Loser filled the air. As usual Dean was already awake. As usual his first thought had been of Sam. His second thought had been what the hell am I doing. Dean turned off the buzzing, ran his hand over his face and back through his hair. He felt the bed move. Lisa rolled over and touched him. He looked at her. She loved him he could tell and he cared for her, he did, she was beautiful and strong and everything he should want, but he couldn't really love her, not the way she needed, because he wasn't whole. It'd been about a year and the pain was still there. The dull, empty, ache only seemed to get worse. The longer Sam suffered in Hell the worse he felt. He knew he was going through the motions and he knew Lisa knew it. He took her hand.
"You ok?" Lisa asked.
"Yeah I'm good." Dean lied. He barely even put effort into the words anymore.
She leaned in and kissed his hand before getting out of bed to start her day.
Dean lay there looking at the ceiling. This is a good life, he thought, why doesn't it make me happy, why can't I just be happy. But he knew why. All he wanted was his brother alive. All of this, all this good life, he'd throw it away in a heartbeat if it would just bring Sam back. But Sam was gone. It'd been about a year. Sam was gone. This was it. Maybe it was time to accept it. Dean sighed deeply and got out of bed. Maybe this was it, because this was his life now and nothing was going to change…..